US Forces STAY in Iraq – Don’t Believe the Hype (Roundup)
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The headlines are declaring “US Leaves Iraq,” and Iraqis are celebrating an Orwellian “National Sovereignty Day.” THE WAR IS OVER!
Don’t believe the hype, “the United States is looking to withdraw from Iraq in name only, as it appears that up to 50,000 military personnel will remain” in Iraq. Here’s a roundup of what’s really happening on the ground in Iraq.
US TROOPS WILL CONTINUE OCCUPATION
US Forces Will Stay in Iraq
The failure to fully comply with the withdrawal agreement indicates the United States is looking to withdraw from Iraq in name only, as it appears that up to 50,000 military personnel will remain after the deadline.
The United States claims it’s adhering to the agreement, known as the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), even with so many troops being left in the cities. But the United States is changing semantics instead of policy. For example, there are no plans to transfer the 3,000 American troops stationed within Baghdad at Forward Operating Base Falcon, because commanders have determined that despite its location, it’s not within the city.
The original intent of moving troops out of the cities was to reduce the U.S. military role and send the message to Iraqis that the United States would be leaving the country soon. But troops that are no longer sleeping in the cities will still take part in operations within Iraqi cities; they will serve in “support” and “advisory” roles, rather than combat functions. Such “reclassification” of troops as military trainers is another example of how the United States is circumventing the terms of the SOFA agreement.
The larger loophole in the agreement is the treatment of military contractors. There has been little mention of the 132,610 military contractors in Iraq. Of these, 36,061 are American citizens, according to a recent Department of Defense report.
Since September 2008, only 30,000 troops have left Iraq. The 134,000 soldiers that remain are just slightly below the number of troops that were in Iraq in 2003. These numbers are likely to remain well above 100,000 until 2010. [read more]
Iraq’s “National Sovereignty Day” is U.S.-Style Hallmark Hype
Despite the big show, the U.S. occupation continues. It is very doubtful that—decades from now—Iraqis will tell their grandchildren about where they were on “National Sovereignty Day.”
The puppet government in Iraq has named June 30 as “National Sovereignty Day,” and—without mentioning the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis maimed, killed, tortured or made refugees by the U.S. invasion and occupation—thanked the occupiers for placing them in power. “President” Jalal Talabani termed today “a glorious day,” saying, “While we celebrate this day, we express our thanks and gratitude to our friends in the coalition forces who faced risks and responsibilities and sustained casualties and damage while helping Iraq to get rid from the ugliest dictatorship and during the joint effort to impose security and stability.”
Meanwhile the Iraqi “Prime Minister” Nouri al Maliki—clearly living in his Green Zone bubble—stated: “The national united government succeeded in putting down the sectarian war that was threatening the unity and the sovereignty of Iraq,” adding, “Those who think that Iraqis are unable to defend their country are committing a fatal mistake.” Perhaps Maliki has been hanging out too much by the swimming pools and cabanas in the Green Zone and missed these events:
There was a significant spike in violence before the June 30 withdrawal. More than 250 people were killed in a series of bombings, including one on June 20 that left 81 dead outside a mosque in northern Iraq and another in a Baghdad market on June 24 that killed 78. [read more]
US forces withdrawing from Iraqi cities will move instead to encircle them
The troops will form ‘belts’ around volatile cities like Mosul, where some fear gains in stability will be lost when US troops pull out on June 30….
The commanding general in charge of US forces in the north says American combat troops pulling out of Iraq’s most volatile cities are being shifted to areas encircling the cities to try to stop what has proved to be a resilient Al Qaeda in Iraq and other insurgent groups. [read more]
US general in Iraq will not say how many troops remain
As US forces completed a withdrawal from Iraqi cities Tuesday six years after the US-led invasion, the top US commander General Ray Odierno refused to spell out how many would be left behind.
“June 30, 2009 marks a significant milestone for Iraq as the Iraqi security forces assume responsibility for security within the cities across the country,” Odierno told US journalists in a video-briefing from Iraq.
“In accordance with the security agreement between the United States and Iraq, US combat forces completed the withdrawal. A small number will remain in cities to train, advise, coordinate with Iraqi security forces, as well as enable them to move forward.”
But when pressed by journalists to say exactly how many US troops would be left, Odierno refused to give a number. [read more]
The scramble for Iraq’s ‘sweet oil’
With proven oil reserves of around 112 billion barrels and up to another 150 billion barrels of probable reserves, Iraq is the greatest untapped prize for international oil companies.
To put that in context, if Iraq does turn out to have around 300 billion barrels of oil, it will rival the world’s biggest producer Saudi Arabia – which has around 160 billion barrels of proven reserves.
So it is little wonder that giant international oil companies are lining up to get back into Iraq after the industry was nationalised in the 1970s and the oil majors were kicked out.
On June 30 major companies – including Exxon, Shell, BP and Total – will gather at Iraq’s oil ministry in Baghdad for a two-day meeting to take part in the first bidding round for oil service contracts. [read more]
Inside Story – Iraqi Oil for sale
BP group wins Iraq oil contract
An oil consortium led by British Petroleum has won a contract to develop a large oil field in Iraq, as dozens of international firms compete for the rights to the nation’s oil and gas reserves.
BP, along with China’s CNPC, secured the contract for the Rumaila oil field on Tuesday, the largest of Iraq’s six oil fields on offer to foreign and state-owned companies. [read more]
IRAQ IN RUINS
Little to Celebrate in Iraq
There’s little to celebrate about the US pullback in Iraq.
More than six years after the US invasion, Iraq is shattered. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis are dead — far more, incidentally, than even the largest estimates of the number of Iraqis who died during 35 years of Saddam Hussein’s rule — its social fabric is utterly destroyed, its economy is in ruins, and its dominant political faction is in hock to neighboring Iran.
And now what?
As we pull back, we’re leaving Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in charge. Increasingly, Maliki is taking on the trappings of a dictator. He’s established a network of security agencies that report directly to him. He’s built a countrywide patronage system to bribe and pay off tribal allies, in anticipation of 2010 elections. He’s shown no compunction against using the army, the police, and the secret agencies he controls to eliminate rivals. He’s used divide-and-conquer tactics to outflank the Sunni-led sahwa movement, known as the Awakening or the Sons of Iraq, driving some of them back into armed resistance and others into sullen resentment or fear for their lives.
And Maliki, despite his protestations that he is a born-again “nationalist,” has close ties to Iran. With Iran now revealed as a fundamentalist-run, naked military dictatorship, I expect Iran to act ruthlessly vis-a-vis Iraq, and if he wants to stay in power Maliki will pretty much have to go along. [read more]
The Iraqi Refugee Crisis Continues
Despite the Ceremonial Withdrawal of US Troops from Iraqi Cities, a Country Shattered by the Invasion and Occupation Remains
Iraq’s continuing middle class refugee disaster is perhaps the central barrier to a durable peace in Iraq, and shows no sign of abatement. Far from making front-page headlines, this “invisible crisis”—the largest human displacement since 1948—has been largely ignored for the past six years.
In sheer humanitarian terms, the media’s failure to report this massive tragedy is disappointing but perhaps not surprising given the plethora of underreported humanitarian crises extant in the world today. However, this is not simply a distant humanitarian catastrophe. The Iraq refugee disaster has grave and gravely unexamined consequences for the future of Iraq, a shattered nation that desperately needs its native professional class to return and help rebuild the country.
With some estimates of civilian injuries numbering in the millions, the need for health care in Iraq has never been greater. Unfortunately, there are half as many health care professionals in Iraq today as there were in 2000. Iraq still lacks basic electricity, water, and sanitation services as well. This is a startling fact when one considers the hundreds of billions of dollars US taxpayers have poured into rebuilding Iraq. The stark and unacknowledged reality is the refugee disaster has made rebuilding Iraq impossible at any cost; there are simply not enough professionals left in Iraq with the technical skills and desire necessary to rebuild their homeland. [read more]
Iraq Has Another One of Its Famous Turning Points
As the media trumpets sound for the pullback of American troops from urban areas in Iraq, the essential lesson of our involvement must be recalled: Nothing about our entanglement in Iraq has ever been as it seemed…. So at most, what we witness this week with the repositioning of American troops is yet another of those “turning points” we heard about so often from our former president. We hope it will send us, and the Iraqis, along a straight and bright path out of violence. Yet the view from this crossroads even now continues to be obscured by an upsurge in killing and uncertainty about Iraq’s political future. [read more]
ESCALATING VIOLENCE CONTINUES
Car bomb ends party mood in Iraq
A deadly car bomb in northern Iraq shattered the mood of celebration tonight just hours after makeshift bands, dancing teenagers and crowds waving Iraqi flags had marked the withdrawal of American troops from the nation’s cities. [read more]
At Least 26 Killed in Kirkuk As U.S. Withdraws from Iraqi Cities
At least 26 people were killed Tuesday in the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk, marring a national holiday declared to celebrate the departure of U.S. combat troops from Iraqi cities after six years and three months of war… While more than 130,000 U.S. troops remain in the country, patrols by heavily armed soldiers in hulking vehicles have largely disappeared from Baghdad, Mosul and Iraq’s other urban centers. [read more]
Four U.S. soldiers killed during pullout from Iraqi cities
Four U.S. soldiers were killed in combat shortly before the American military completed a withdrawal from Iraq’s cities. [read more]
Senior Sunni politician assassinated in Iraq
A senior Iraqi leader of the Iraqi Islamic party was killed in the western Iraqi city of Ramadi… [Read more]
SIGHTS STILL SET ON IRAN
Top US commander: Iran still supports Iraq attacks
The top U.S. military commander in Iraq on Tuesday accused Iran of continuing to support and train militants who are carrying out attacks, including most of the ones in Baghdad….
“Iran is still supporting, funding and training surrogates who operate inside of Iraq. They have not stopped and I don’t think they will stop,” Odierno told reporters at the U.S. military headquarters outside Baghdad. “I think many of the attacks in Baghdad are from individuals that have been in fact funded or trained by the Iranians.” [read more]
‘US forces attempt to hijack Iranian oil field’
American forces have attempted to take over an Iranian oil field near the country’s western border with Iraq, a security official says.
“US forces backed by tanks entered the Mousian area of the Dehloran County, laying around 100 meters of pipeline in Iranian territory,” the source, talking on condition of anonymity, said Monday.
The source added that the pipes, marked with Iraqi flags, were blocked after Iranian forces pushed the “intruders” back across the border.
Iraqi officials have been notified of Iran’s objection to American movements along the common border, according to the source. [read more]
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